One fine evening,in the year 1980,Delhi-based artist Manu Parekh sat in a boat and sailed smoothly along the ghats of Varanasi. As the sun set,he was overwhelmed by the sudden change the skies turned to a vivid red,reflecting in the waters of Ganga,and dots of light emanating from diyas appeared on the ghats along with sounds of chanting. This was his second visit to the town,and then Parekh had an epiphany of sorts. It made me realise the idea of faith,but more of collective faith and the behaviour of people around it. I followed this up with visits to other places and saw that people create this belief and hang on to it for survival, says Parekh. It also led the Padma Shri awardee to start working on a series of paintings dedicated to the ghats and the activities of the ghats. After 30 years of working on these,he has brought 18 out of the collection to the Capital. The works are part of an exhibition titled Faith: Manu Parekh in Benaras 1980-2012,which is on at Art Alive Gallery.
The set of paintings also denotes a change in Parekhs body of work as he shifted base from Kolkata to Delhi in 1975. The change,he says,is what drove him to Varanasi. When I was in Kolkata,I was greatly inspired by it. Coming to Delhi was a culture shock,for it was very beautiful,full of gardens. Kolkata,on the other hand,was full of struggle,yet it had tremendous human energy. I needed a place where I would feel some connection, says Parekh,firmly adding that the stay wasnt a spiritual experience,but a visual one. I was never very religious, he quips.
Curated by Bangalore-based art historian and designer Annapurna Garimella,the Ganga,the ghats and the snaking bylanes of the city are seen through visually meaningful works divided into four sections: Glimpses from a Boat,Transformed Stone,Repeating Forms,and Flowers.
The latter depicts flowers used for worship,some sprouting in pots,using mixed media,while some are colourful dashes with a life of their own. Im not talking about them in a poetic sense. They have a certain drama and journey. For instance,one day it will be on the head of the Gods,and some other day it will be on the streets with people walking on it, he says. Transformed Stone,at the same time,consists of various lingas surrounded by various materials such as diyas and flowers,depicting the simplicity of faith even as one puts a simple tilak on a round stone and transforms it into God. The whole practice of faith is so connected,simple and believable. This aspect is the same in cities such as Vatican City,Jerusalem or Ajmer. Its a strong theme and even governments can survive on it, he concludes.
The exhibition is on till May 12 at Art Alive Gallery. Contact 41639000